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Dodgers may have fallen on hard times, but they haven't fallen out of NL West race

They began Saturday six games out of first despite 23-29 record. Manager Don Mattingly and GM Ned Colletti are optimistic, figuring that once lineup is healthy and up to speed, team will win more.

May 29, 2011|By Steve Dilbeck, Los Angeles Times

To the downtrodden, to those devoid of optimism, to all those who have witnessed the 2011 Dodgers and decided they'll check back next season, hope is offered: a totally mediocre National League West.

That's right, despite ownership chaos and injured players and an inept offense, the Dodgers, 23-29 before they played Florida on Saturday night, were only six games out of first place with two-thirds of the season left.

The division refuses to let them go.

"Considering how we've hit and how hurt we've been, to be six out — that's a gift," General Manager Ned Colletti said.

If the Dodgers were in the NL East, they'd be 9½ back of the Phillies and battling the mighty Washington Nationals to stay out of last place.

But they are in the West, where the division-leading San Francisco Giants just lost star catcher Buster Posey, possibly for the season, and the Colorado Rockies have lost left-hander Jorge De La Rosa for the year.

No team has stepped up, taken control and left the others in its wake. The Rockies acted like they might when they started the season 11-2, but have gone 14-24 since. The World Series champion Giants (28-23) lead the West, but only by a half game over the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks (28-24).

"To be where we're at, as banged up as we've been, I think we're fortunate to be where we are," Colletti said. "Sometimes you take the good fortune that you have and turn it into something even better. I still have a ton of confidence in where we're at."

His confidence is based on how well the starting pitching has performed (3.69 earned-run average) and how many Dodgers have spent time on the disabled list. Slowly, the injured are returning. Slowly, their thinking goes, they will work themselves back into the division race.

Either that, or stay where they are and let the division fall back to them.

"It's a matter of us just getting hot," Manager Don Mattingly said. "Getting a streak and putting something together. If you look at us and we put any kind of normal offense up, we're winning two out of three. It's the way we've pitched.

"If this lineup was pretty much together the whole year, and we put any semblance of four runs a day, or close to it, we could be winning every series. I mean, our pitching has been tremendous."

And if Frank McCourt hadn't made a financial mess of the Dodgers, Major League Baseball wouldn't suddenly have an office down the hall.

Mattingly actually takes hope from how the Giants won the division last season. The Giants were 40-39 on July 2, then finished 52-31. Mattingly still views the Giants as the division favorite.

"They have the same club they had last year," Mattingly said. "They struggled to put runs up last year. They were just like us early in the year last year. They'd get one run, one run. Then all of a sudden they caught a little streak. With that pitching, they caught a little offense, and it's difficult.

"They're world champions. They got the pitching. They're still together, and they seem to find a way. So I think they're the club you have to look at."

In the NL West, hope springs eternal.

"If we get healthy, we got a shot," Colletti said.

sports@latimes.com

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